Category Archives: Technology and Society

Dr. Strangelove Redux?

Did the Soviets build a doomsday machine that’s still operational?

Blair is not a wild-eyed Cassandra raising unsupported suspicions. Colleagues in his field regard him as a serious and cautious scholar raising real questions. Stephen M. Meyer, an expert o the Russian military at MIT, told the Times that Blair “requires of himself a much higher standard of evidence than many people in the intelligence community.”

Blair’s troubling papers, along with his book The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War, serve as a reminder that the illogic, irrationalities, and vulnerability to catastrophic error of our Cold War nuclear war command and control mechanisms were never resolved or fixed, just forgotten when the Cold War ended. His analysis suggests that during the Cold War, we may have escaped an accidental nuclear war by luck rather than policy.

Sleep tight…

[Update on Thursday morning]

Alan K. Henderson is having a flashback. Errrr…make that flashforward.

The End Of The Silicon Age

Is drawing near:

Researchers at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in California developed a technique for measuring magnetic anisotropy, a property of the magnetic field that gives it the ability to maintain a particular direction. Being able to measure magnetic anisotropy at the atomic level is a crucial step toward the magnet representing the ones or the zeroes used to store data in binary computer language.

In a second report, researchers at IBM’s lab in Zurich, Switzerland, said they had used an individual molecule as an electric switch that could potentially replace the transistors used in modern chips. The company published both research reports in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.

Wonder what the implications of this technology are for Moore’s Law?

[Update a few minutes later]

Howard Lovy (who is back to blogging on nanotech again) has some thoughts on the paucity of imagination in reporting these things.

Infinite Loop

I hate automated phone payment systems that insist on voice input. I particularly hate them when they’re stupidly worded.

After providing information, the voice says “Can I repeat that for you?”

Well, the two options are yes, or no. Obviously, the system is capable of repeating it for me. So the correct answer is “yes.” But an answer of “yes” will result in it repeating it for me. To which my response should again be “yes.” The only to get it to stop is to lie, and say, “no.” That is, the system cannot repeat it for me, even though we both know it can. And of course, being the sensitive kind of guy I am, I feel guilty about lying to it, even though it’s just a mindless machine.

I’d like to think that there’s some counter built into the system to keep scrupulously literal and honest people from dying of starvation or sleep deprivation while continuing their futile attempts to placate it, but it seems like it would just be simpler to word it, “Should I repeat that for you?” Or “Would you like me to repeat that for you?”

It’s even more irritating than asking me whether or not I had a perfect stay.

[Update a while later]

For those curious, I see no reason to protect the guilty. Maybe they’ll hear about this and do something about it. It’s US Bank.